Rufaro’s humbling lesson to govt
MAY 2 will go down in history as the day government tried to play trade union and failed dismally.
A headline in a State-owned daily screamed on Monday — All roads lead to Rufaro as workers snub ZCTU sideshow!
This was in anticipation of a huge crowd at the 35 000 capacity football stadium to commemorate a government-organised Workers’ Day celebration.
The same daily claimed workers had snubbed the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) May Day commemorations held at Gwanzura stadium the day before as they preferred to attend the ‘official’ commemorations.
Alas, the ‘official’ turned out to be a complete flop, which probably left the organisers spectacularly embarrassed.
Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, is commemorated on May 1 every year to recognise the importance of workers as well as reflect on the issues that affect them.
The event was hosted by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare led by Prisca Mupfumira and had all the imaginable dignitaries present, from Members of Parliament, Cabinet ministers to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was the guest of honour.
That impressive line up, however, failed to draw crowds to the stadium, even with much publicity and freebies on offer.
Not even the line-up of top notch entertainers, including man-of-the-moment, Mukudzei Mukombe (popularly known as Jah Prayzer) and Sulumani Chimbetu could attract meaningful attendance.
So paltry was the turnout that, in all fairness, ZCTU had the axiomatic last laugh; its own figures the previous day were, despite being equally low compared to previous events, impressive compared to the charade at Rufaro Stadium.
At Rufaro, terraces that had been filled to capacity by paying fans a day before when two of Harare’s most popular football clubs, Dynamos and Caps United, played each other, were deserted throughout the occasion.
This writer, despite his difficulties in maths, could easily count the number of people at the popular Mbare Musika end bay against his fingers without having to cross to the other hand.
This was quite clearly a reality check for government, which for years has been taunting the ZCTU as a spent force for failing to attract the numbers it used to.
It was a reality check for a government which had all along denied that unemployment in the country has reached more than 80 percent.
Government has been claiming that it is actually the employment rate which stood at over 80 percent.
If it wanted a true barometer to measure the catastrophe that this country is enduring in terms of employment, then it was amply supplied.
But it also was, in a way, a big howler which led to an on-goal and it would be a very safe bet that Mupfumira has had a lesson and she will probably refuse to repeat the terrible experiment again, bringing the Vice President of a nation to address an empty stadium.
In fact, if the truth is to be told, the better part of the small crowd that came to Rufaro on Monday consisted of little school children from around the populated suburb who had to maximise on the last day of the schools holiday playing inside the stadium, whatever event was taking place.
The writer observed some small boys enjoying a rare treat of having a whole bay to themselves, racing along the rows with uninterrupted liberty.
It also consisted of men and women around Mbare who needed to help themselves to free branded T-shirts and a lunch pack which had buns and a cold juice — a real treatment for the impoverished citizens who are either out of employment or, if working, are not getting their salaries.
This writer overhead women rushing towards the point where the T-shirts and drinks were being dished out, with one of them saying: “Let’s just go and get the T-shirts and leave.”
And, of course, there is one constituency that is sure never to miss such events — the ZANU-PF sympathiser who does not inquire on what the event is about: it is his/her duty and right to be there for as long as his/her seniors in the party are coming.
Take Mbare Chimurenga choir for example, which filled several rows in the VIP enclosure, partly obscuring members of the Police band who were part of the official entertainers; they made their customary bum-shaking dances even though the event so clearly did not warrant such a performance.
There are also many other dimensions that serve to expose the event as a complete farce.
For example, only three of the five organisations that had been billed to give solidarity messages turned up and they had to, as an afterthought, rope in chairman of the Harare Municipal Workers Union, Cosmas Bungu, a well known ZANU-PF sympathiser who just happened to have perfected those bootlicking antics, just in time.
The ZCTU and the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe both snubbed the event.
The International Labour Organisation, which had attended the ZCTU event, attended by virtue of the demands of its role.
The Apex council, the umbrella body for civil servants, was also at Gwanzura for the ZCTU event.
Therefore, the only true exclusive support this ‘official’ event got was from the Joseph Chinotimba led Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, which was created to undermine the ZCTU.
Interestingly, government had hired, probably at a handsome cost, buses from the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company to ferry civil servants across Harare to Rufaro.
But judging by the poor attendance, it is hard to persuade anyone to believe that any of those buses came to the stadium even half full.
So it is the story of a government not even attracting the interest of its very own employees.
No doubt Mupfumira should have walked — oh, she drove — out of the football stadium swearing never to try such a self-defeating (mis)adventure again.